Former Union Minister and one of the founding members of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Jaswant Singh, passed away on Sunday morning after suffering a cardiac arrest. He was 82.
Singh, a former Army officer, had been ill after a fall at his home in August 2014 and was admitted to the Army Research and Referral Hospital.
He had been in and out of the hospital and was admitted again on June 25 this year and was being treated for Sepsis with Multiorgan Dysfunction Syndrome.
Major Jaswant Singh (Retd), former Cabinet Minister, passed away at 6:55 am today. He was admitted on 25 June & was being treated for Sepsis with Multiorgan Dysfunction Syndrome. He had a cardiac arrest this morning. His COVID status is negative: Army Hospital (R&R), Delhi pic.twitter.com/GEi404GbQj— ANI (@ANI) September 27, 2020
"It is with profound grief that we inform about the sad demise of Hon'ble Major Jaswant Singh (Retd), former Cabinet Minister of Government of India at 0655 hours on 27 September 2020. He was admitted on 25 Jun 2020 and being treated for Sepsis with Multiorgan Dysfunction Syndrome and effects of Severe Head Injury old (Optd) had a Cardiac arrest this morning," the hospital said in a statement.
Despite the best efforts of the attending team of specialists to resuscitate him, he could not be revived and passed away, it added.
His funeral will take place later today at Jodhpur in Rajasthan, family sources said.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh condoled the death of the former Union Minister in the Vajpayee cabinet and acknowledged his efforts in strengthening the party in Rajasthan.
"Jaswant Singh ji would be remembered for his intellectual capabilities and stellar record in service to the nation. He also played a key role in strengthening the BJP in Rajasthan. Condolences to his family and supporters in this sad hour. Om Shanti," Singh said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a tweet said, "Jaswant Singh Ji served our nation diligently, first as a soldier and later during his long association with politics. During Atal Ji’s Government, he handled crucial portfolios and left a strong mark in the worlds of finance, defence and external affairs. Saddened by his demise."
The PM also spoke with Singh's son Manvendra and expressed condolences.
In his eclectic career, Singh donned many hats -- army officer, author, Union minister, but his handling of the Kandahar hijack crisis as the then external affairs minister in 1999 was one that looms large.
Born on January 3, 1938 in village Jasol in Barmer district, Singh served the Indian Army in the 1950s and 60s.
He resigned his Commission to pursue a political career and had a distinguished tenure in Parliament being a member of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha multiple times.
Singh had been associated with the BJP since its foundation in 1980.
He was twice expelled from the party.
In 2009, the BJP expelled him after his book 'Jinnah - India, Partition, Independence' was published.
He came back into the party fold 10 months later, but faced a second expulsion in 2014 when he defied party orders and contested from Barmer as an Independent after being denied a ticket.
Though there were several highs and a few lows in his career in politics, his role and decision-making in the Kandahar hijacking has been the subject of much debate and dissection.
In a book, Singh, while talking about the IC 814 flight that was hijacked from Kathmandu to Kandahar in Afghanistan on Christmas eve in 1999 with 161 passengers and crew on board, said it was "most demanding and emotionally a most draining period" of his life.
Singh had accompanied the three released terrorists, including Jaish-e-Mohammed head Masood Azhar, on a flight to Kandahar for a hostage swap deal with the hijackers.
Singh had recounted in his book how the hijacking had taken place about an hour after he had become a proud grandfather to a baby girl, and that it was a tough decision to agree to swap the terrorists.
He said he was opposed to any compromise to start with but slowly began to change as time passed.
Singh, who had close ties across the political spectrum, was known to be a scholarly gentleman in political circles, but was never one to hold back his views.
Bengal Chief minister Mamata Banerjee, Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal, Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot, Punjab CM Amarinder Singh, DMK chief MK Stalin, Jairam Ramesh, P Chidambaram and Shashi Tharoor, among others, condoled his demise.
Former Union minister Omar Abdullah tweeted, "Jaswant Singh sahib was my senior minister when I was Minister of State External Affairs. He was supportive without being interfering, was always available for advice & never made me feel like my work didn't matter."
"He was the perfect boss & mentor," he said.
Between 2004 and 2009, Singh was Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha.
He was also a prolific writer and authored several books in Hindi and English.
He also contributed widely to Indian and foreign magazines, newspapers and journals on international affairs, security and development issues.
(With Agencies Inputs)